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Sober, even depressing, but also thoughtful, sometimes funny, and very well-written

  • Jul 8, 2009
Most of what we humans do in the name of "work" will never be recognized, possibly never even be noticed, and will quickly crumble into dust in little less time than it takes us to crumble and die ourselves. One of humanity's greatest achievements is our ability to ignore all this and attempt to achieve things anyway.

That sober, even dark message lies at the heart of "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work," a meditation that suggests there are in our vast warehouses or soulless steel and glass office towers a lot fewer pleasures than sorrows. Even the monochrome photos that accompany the text are often depressing. But it would be too simple to categorize this as merely a downer with no redeeming virtues. On the contrary, I found this a very interesting and thought-provoking work, and quite enjoyed not only Alain de Botton's narrative skill, but particularly his ability to draw thoughtful and even philosophical conclusions from simple observations. Ultimately, de Botton dares to see the heroic in the facelessness of accounting, in the architecture of electrical pylons, even in the violence and discomfort of commercial fishing.

I've heard or read Mr. de. Botton's work in several different media now and have always found it worth savoring. "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" can be read quickly, but I think it would especially repay lingering over. Beyond the somewhat bleak first appearances, there is a lot the thoughtful reader can take away from these impressions of "work" and life.

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review by . June 13, 2009
Alain de Botton continues to charm in this exploration of questions related to work.    The book consists of ten chapters, in each of which the author explores a specific job type in depth. The text is augmented throughout with photographs by Richard Baker, about 15 per chapter. These serve as an excellent complement to de Botton's remarks and reinforce one of the book's major strengths, which is Alain de Botton's skill for anchoring his exploration of profound questions pertaining …
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Andrew S. Rogers ()
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Book Description
We spend most of our waking lives at work—in occupations often chosen by our unthinking younger selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what our occupations mean to us.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is an exploration of the joys and perils of the modern workplace, beautifully evoking what other people wake up to do each day—and night—to make the frenzied contemporary world function. With a philosophical eye and his signature combination of wit and wisdom, Alain de Botton leads us on a journey around a deliberately eclectic range of occupations, from rocket science to biscuit manufacture, accountancy to art—in search of what make jobs either fulfilling or soul-destroying.

Along the way he tries to answer some of the most urgent questions we can ask about work: Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? What is its meaning? And why do we daily exhaust not only ourselves but also the planet? Characteristically lucid, witty and inventive, Alain de Botton’s “song for occupations” is a celebration and exploration of an aspect of life which is all too often ignored and a book that shines a revealing light on the essential meaning of work in our lives.

Alain de Botton on The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
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ISBN-10: 037542444X
ISBN-13: 978-0375424441
Author: Alain De Botton
Genre: Business & Investing, Nonfiction
Publisher: Pantheon
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